Old city - historical center of Baku

Old city - historical center of Baku

06.12.2021, 1009

Old city - historical center of Baku

Old City or Inner City (Icheri Sheher) is the historical center of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The Old City is located in the southern part of Baku and is part of the Sabayil neighborhood. It backs directly onto the Bulvar, the park, and the promenade that runs along the Caspian Sea.

Old City or Inner City (Icheri Sheher) is the historical center of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The Old City is located in the southern part of Baku and is part of the Sabayil neighborhood. It backs directly onto the Bulvar, the park, and the promenade that runs along the Caspian Sea.

The Icherisheher (İçəri Şəhər, literally ‘Inner City’), separated from the rest of Baku by a long, curved wall. In the past, there were two main gates. But now there are several openings where pedestrians and cars can pass through.




The oldest part of Baku, the Old City was first settled sometime between the 7th and 12th centuries. The 12th-century Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) is built over earlier structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC. And the 15th-century Shirvanshahs' Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan's architecture. In December 2000, the Old City of Baku, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower, became the first location in Azerbaijan to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




The Icheri Sheher is the cultural core of Baku. It has its charm like old wine. The streets, the narrow lanes, the structures, the markets, the history, the look, and the feel. All these make old cities an all-time beauty world over. If you as a traveler have been looking to explore a city, which has its old part, as your next destination then you must consider Old City, Baku in Azerbaijan.

Within these fortifications are the ancient jewels of Azerbaijan, the Maiden Tower, and Shirvanshahs’ Palace but also a creative community, local craft stores. Visitors can stop for a quick "qutab" served from a window for a single manat. Pause for tea taken with spoonfuls of jam, or indulge in an authentic feast with a side of traditional entertainment.

The metro and bus systems are straightforward and cost 0.30 manats (20¢) regardless of where you ride. And taxis are usually less than 10 manats (US$6) within Baku. Spend a few days in this city and you’ll soon realize that while it’s familiar, Baku remains unlike anywhere else.

The Inner Walled City is one of the few surviving medieval towns in Azerbaijan. It holds the characteristic features of a medieval town, such as the labyrinth of narrow streets, "hamams" (bathhouses), congested buildings, and tiny courtyards.




Maiden Tower

Standing at 29 meters tall over eight stories, you might spot this iconic stone tower on the back of your manat before you see it in person. There’s debate around when it was built, but it’s generally agreed that the lower part dates to the 6th century. And that most of the structure was completed in the 12th century. It’s thought that the Maiden Tower was originally a temple and then a defense tower. The walls are five meters thick at the base. Called Qız Qalası in Azeri, head inside to admire the multimedia installations in the museum.




Palace of the Shirvanshahs

The 15th-century palace where Azerbaijan’s dynasty ruled, bathed, and cohabitated in the Middle Ages. Through the main courtyard, there’s a wonderful view across sandstone domes to the Flame Towers, while inside are exhibitions with audiovisual flourishes. Explore the Divankhana pavilion, burial vaults, mosque, mausoleum, and "Hamam" ruins.




Museum of Miniature Books

This small, obscure museum of more than 5,700 tiny books, courtesy of the personal collection of Zarifa Salahova, is worth 10 minutes if you’re in the Old City. Most need a magnifying glass to read. There’s a whole library’s worth of books from fairy tales and Shakespeare to philosophy and worship.


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Ali Shamsi Studio

Baku is an artistic city and if you stop in at this workshop you’re likely to meet the artist himself. Ali Shamsi paints bold, colorful canvases with the dreamscape. Like the subject matter of piercing eyes and pomegranates. He’ll pose for a photo, and will likely ask you to do the same.




Shirvanshah Muzey-Restoran

Part museum, part historic building, and part restaurant. This is Baku’s most unique dining experience. Once a 19th-century bathhouse, it’s now a maze of 18 painstakingly decorated and themed dining rooms decked out in original artifacts and Soviet-era paraphernalia. If you’re with a group, call ahead and order shaikh plov, a “royal pilaf” served like a crusted cake.



How to get to the old city of Baku Icheri Sheher?
The old residential quarter is located in the very center of Baku, near Baku Boulevard. And the nearest metro station is the Icheri Sheher metro station and the bus station of the same name. 




You may be fascinated by the charm of the old city of Baku. Walking through the Old City streets, you will get the impression that you have been transported from the present day back to the time of the Silk Road.

There are other places, museums, and galleries to explore too. We will tell about them in the following blogs.

Old city - historical center of Baku

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